High Rock: Nightmare.
I woke early despite my exhaustion and was burdened with a sense of urgency and doom.
I woke the others and any complaints were soon stifled when they saw my face.
We were soon assembled and ready to go. It was only 5:00AM.
Serana asked, “You are more than a little worried! Your intuition or has a God spoken to you?”
“It is purely intuition. A gut feeling if you wish. The timelines are still a mess and I do not think any soothsayers would be having much success. It is like this kingdom has a palpable tension level battering at my subconscious and it is reaching its peak.”
“If we do not stop the gate it will not be because a mistake was made. You must realise and accept this. We have done with minimal sleep and tackled things in a logical order. We have tried to reveal and unravel plans decades in construction and implementation in mere days. I fear the logic of all this will matter little and you will unravel. If you do not think you can be the Emperor, do not don his armour!”
This was said loudly in the main room of a large inn. Although only about 5:00AM there was still a goodly number of regulars who had stopped by for breakfast. All of them halted what they were doing and stared at the Imperial General being chastised by a lower ranked soldier. And what was that crap about Emperor?
I whispered to Serana, “To the locals it sounds like we are usurpers.”
The bartender yelled, “We are loyal to High Queen Rigmor here. I suggest you go somewhere else before we take offence at your treasonous talk!”
In his wildest dreams he would not have expected our response. We all burst out laughing and the more evil looks we got from the locals the worse it got.
I fished out several gold coins and tossed them to the barkeeper.
“Drinks all around, even at this early hour, for my Queen’s loyal subjects. Long live High Queen Rigmor!”
We left the inn in a cheerful mood and headed towards Radon’s home.
It was just after 6:00AM when we arrived at his home and I immediately banged on his front door.
“If you want smithing come back at an hour that will not get me lynched for banging on my anvil.”
I banged on the door again.
“Even if I wanted to risk a lynching it takes a good hour to get my fire hot enough so go away.”
I banged on the door again and he opened it an inch to see who it was. When he spotted the uniforms he reluctantly opened it all the way and we all crammed inside.
He said, “The answer is no.”
“Hello Rados. I am General Marcus and I have a message from Arnima.”
“Good day! Nice to see you people haven’t yet been overrun by plague. The moment I hear you cough though… and the answer is still no.”
“It is about you grandfather Mados, namely his armour… “
“What part of the word ‘no’ do you not understand? By the Eight, will my children be expected to become fabled heroes too?”
“No doubt others have asked many times in the past but this is different.”
“Bah, at least a dozen times and my father before me. Each time someone’s horse is stolen or some Exiles mug a merchant… “
“I am asking on behalf of Emperor Wulf Septim and High Queen Rigmor. I would not do so if it was not important. Imperial Generals are not sent to ask for help with things Mados would consider minor and not at this time of the morning when sensible people are asleep.”
“So not on behalf of those who claim to respect him, yet they put him on display in death, deny the old man burial for years!”
“If Mados had not given such permission for such display before his death then ask them to hand over his remains to you for private burial if you wish. I would personally strike a compromise and have him interred inside a consecrated sarcophagus so at least that is a burial and people can visit it.”
“Who would have such authority to enforce that?”
“The laws of The Empire and the teachings of The Divines both demand it. A Priest of Arkay would demand it. I have friends who can enforce it.”
“Okay, I will hear you out.”
“There is a Daedric Lord, Namira, who is planning on attacking this kingdom. In preparation for her assault the Witchmen are conducting dark magic rituals and will soon amass ready to join that unholy assault and massacre. The first target of the war is Arnima. We plan to at least stop them amassing. If I can’t stop Namira’s plan then we will join the Imperials from the Embassy in defending Arnima from the demons and creatures of Oblivion.”
“That is worthy of Mados!”
“Only you can make the magic of Mother Mara emanate from that armour and bathe those who see it in her Divine love. Unholy creatures will not feel her love but Divine anger and retribution. It will instil hope and courage in your people and despair and cowardice in their enemies.”
“How can I say no to that vision? I’m in friend. Lead the way.”
“We will be stopping by the Embassy to arrange some things and then a quick trip to the Divide. Using the Direnni Soul Stones it adds little to the time it will take to get to Arnima.”
With that we left his home and headed for the Imperial Embassy.
As we travelled I learned more about The Reach from Rados.
“What was Raven Spring like?”
“Oh, none too unusual. There was even a joke that’s what you call a temple, a sewer and a wall brought together. However, there was a real sense of community! We were proud like the Reachmen should be. We are older than the three Empires combined, most of Nirn doesn’t know we exist and the Bretons want to believe we don’t. Back then Mortifayne seemed like the finest lord the place had ever had. He was strict but fair, blunt but honest, a terrific swordsman on top of that.”
“Sounds like two entirely different towns.”
“Well, the Siege of Raven Spring had changed it all. Those two months broke some in ways healers could do nothing about. The hero’s death, the curse of Grey Belmor, the bodies mounted on the pikes. My father couldn’t handle Mados’ demise. He took to the bottle and in the following years there wasn’t much left of him. And Mortifayne had lost his wife. That alone made the man once called “Made-Of-Iron” fearful for his life, secretive and cruel. And he soon had the bodies on the pikes make a return. The new Mortifayne could’ve been ‘Made-Of-Iron’ alright, so many had he put to death with it.”
“You once respected the man. Do you really think such as he would go insane and neglect his people suddenly because of the death of his wife? Are you sure he did not show signs of this ruthlessness beforehand?”
“Well, I suppose we who respected him needed a reason for his madness. But he had slowly changed even before the siege.”
“I will not ask your opinion on that massacre of twenty years ago but that is the catalyst for the woes of this kingdom. That went directly against the teachings of The Divine, and the laws of The Empire, and many lords felt some guilt for participating in the murder of half the kingdom’s serfs, including women and children.
Daedric Lords rely on despair, greed, fear and revenge to work their ways and convince people they can provide an answer.
Mortifayne and the other lords were presented amulets by strange people who had observed, but not participated, in that massacre.
All lords but Mortifayne threw the foul things away. He kept his and via it Namira manipulated him. She told him she was going to kill and enslave all the peoples of the kingdom and the only way he could protect his people was to co-operate.
His cruelty was initially him obeying her demands as she thrives on chaos and despair and it makes it easier to recruit others via false promises of a better way than The Divines provide. At that stage he was like many under the spell of a Dark Lord. He forgot he had free will and could tell such a being to shove their demands and not fear some immortal retribution.
When he started to realise her threats were empty and his obedience faltered a trusted employee, his Cook, murdered his wife as he was a devotee of Namira and she ordered him to.
His grief and her endless whispers via the amulet clouded the fact it was just a mortal and not a God that had killed his wife. That it was not a sign of her power but her weakness.
That is when he lost all hope of fighting and at her insistence his cruelty and despotism increased.
All the time he has been thinking it is the lesser evil if she keeps her promise and his people would be saved from the even worse fate the rest of the kingdom will suffer.
This is not a new story. Not unique to The Reach or to man or mer.
It is how the Daedric Lords have always worked and how they managed to trigger the Oblivion Crises.
The new Emperor and Queen have stopped such plans of Daedric Princes before, the last one not long before they took the Ruby Throne.
Lady Mara hopes this plot can be stopped via negotiation as any attack on Mortifayne will force him to trigger magicka that will open an Oblivion Gate and start the invasion.
That black bitch does not want to rule directly but place a God-King on the throne.
That is what has happened to a lord once respected.”
“Why did not the priests realise this? Why had it taken strangers to see what should be clear. Anyone could be accused of treason and put the death neither painless nor swift so the people were afraid of gathering or even talking too loud. We felt we were living on borrowed time.”
“The priests and The Circle have failed the people and The Divines. They accepted the barbarity of that massacre twenty years ago and that instilled fear in the people long before Mortifayne started his reign of terror.
Profit and prestige drives the nobility of this land. Both they and the priests believe they are of a higher caste than all others. That it is a natural order of things as dictated by The Divines is their belief. That is far from the truth it is blasphemous.
The people of this kingdom lost all hope. If you can’t blame the lords and priests for your woes then choose somebody you can and both Witchmen and Orcs were convenient scapegoats. They became the target of the frustration and anger before the massacre and even more after.
All of this just recruited more devotees for Namira as the hatred and fear provided fertile soil for their growth and nourishment.
As long as Mortifayne paid his taxes and trade could continue the other lords and your king turned a blind eye. It was only serfs and peasants he was killing after all. The High King is battling ill health and has not been able to respond to this evil consuming Evermore.
The Emperor at the bequest of Mother Mara is now responding and let us pray it is not too late.”
“I am glad you said this is not unique to The Reach. Sometimes Reachmen such as me have a strange sense of pride on how hostile and strange we believe this land to be. I find this sickening and more so it has occurred under the watchful eye of old Mados, hoisted like a deer carcass.”
“I understand why you fled that place. It is better than giving into the despair and becoming a lesser person as a result.”
“Yes I left. Some said I should’ve tried to be the big damn hero. Jackos had a plan ready no doubt. But it was the soul of the town that was gone, and bringing that back is no task for a blade.”
“If you had taken the town from Mortifayne the other lords would have descended upon you in fear of power in the hands of peasants. Same as twenty years earlier and you and Jackos would have joined each other on pikes.
What you needed is a power greater than your lords wielded in the name of The Divines and enforcing the laws of The Empire. Unfortunately the Great War and subsequent political bullshit prevented Titus Mede II from dealing with such matters not just here but in other provinces as well. Emperor Sethius was in league with another Daedric Prince so he was not going to help.”
“And we have that support now? Sorry if I sound sceptical.”
“I know the history of The Reach. It has never been stable as it has never had true nobility in its majority. Those who wish to rule for the people have always fought those who rule for themselves. Once again not something unique to here but in other places the battle has been won by the former. For example, nobility rules for the people in Skyrim, Elsweyr, Solstheim and others. Cyrodiil will soon fall into line as this civility will be enforced by the new Emperor and Queen.”
“What you say is true. The Orcs, Witchmen, Nords and Bretons have continually opposed each other with race as a basis for hatred. Bretons do not get along amongst themselves! There was a bleeding mess of a kingdom next to ours called Waycrest and some nineteen years ago we went to war with it. Its leader was King Uther.”
“Still is and he has done admirably trying to repair the chaos left by his predecessor King Barynia. It speaks volumes when invading corsairs are welcomed with open arms and preferable to the moron on the throne. He is one of those who rule for the people and I wish him well.”
“Yes, he is known as “The Owl” for his wisdom and is loved by his people. Unfortunately King Uther had some beautiful daughters you see, each from a different queen, and King Sigmayne was quite fond of one of them. A fact King Uther wasn’t too fond of himself! In the span of two weeks, more than a thousand men were dead on both sides. Such was the war over a princess’ cunny.”
“One again good men died because a King felt privileged. Somebody who cared for their people would have accepted a ‘no’ to his courting.”
“Not only did he feel privileged, the princess he had a hard on for was nine years of age.”
“I keep hearing about his preference for children over woman. It will be investigated by us on behalf of The Emperor and Queen.”
“It was not just his obsession with the girl, his dignity was slighted. During one of his visits Uther had Sigmayne taken prisoner and his retainers banished from the kingdom.”
“Surely this was not done during parley?”
“No, even our King admits he was uninvited and was convinced he could talk the young princess into accepting his proposal.”
“Then it was a good and legal move by King Uther. A sure way to prevent a war but obviously your king was rescued or escaped.”
“After several weeks of captivity he was broken out by a hand-picked squad of scouts. They crossed the border wearing burlap robes and posing as pilgrims. One of them claimed to be a devout priest of Mara who was running an ‘orphanage’. He bribed some guards so he could “see the molester-King and spit in his face”. Not only did that sound plausible to the guards this fake priest put on quite a show as you can imagine! He also passed King Sigmayne a scroll of Recall with a Mark already placed in the woods nearby. Not a single drop of blood shed.”
“No need to confirm whose plan that was. Jackos has already gained my respect and that just adds to it.”
“Such humiliation demanded retribution in our king’s mind. I was levied three days after his escape and a week later the army was well on the move towards Waycrest. Must’ve looked weird in Evermore since another week later King Uther surrendered. Couldn’t do it before so many of his men were slaughtered it seems.”
“You place the blame for those deaths on the wrong king. Anybody not biased by involvement knows he surrendered so as to spare more deaths on both sides. I dare say he talked sense into your king and let him have an appearance of revenge attained. He rules for the people and did not care if it lessened his status amongst the ignorant. You probably outnumbered him because he spent money on infrastructure to help his people, not armies to conquer others. On the other hand your king would not stop till the dead reached the sky simply to massage his bruised ego. And you along with his other loyal subjects meant nothing to him in this matter yet killed in his name.”
“Is that a surprise? As you said, our nobility is above us. Who are we to question their wisdom and since the priests support them it must be alright with The Divines. It was a privilege to invade another person’s home and kill them for having the cheek to offend our king. It is only months or years after that you question the morality and need. You are trying to sleep and the face of a man appears in your head. He is probably a husband and father and you skewered him with your pike in righteous anger. He silently asks why and you wake and the doubts become certainty. Maybe helping my people now will help all of High Rock. Maybe his widow and children will benefit from my actions. Maybe The Divines will take that into account when presented with my dark soul upon my death.”
“The Divines are not vengeful Gods. They do not punish those who do things through ignorance. If your king was to embark on something similar and you volunteered after such an epiphany that would darken your soul. Free will and what you do with it is the measurement we are judged by.”
“Those two weeks of battle were, to sum them up, nasty. We outnumbered them six to one but the skirmishes were so fierce our Aventuriers had set the countryside ablaze with their spells. Those were windy months, so by the time my unit had reached the city of Waycrest the smoke was everywhere, and let me tell you, war is hard enough even when you can breathe!”
“Believe me when I tell you I have been fighting for four years against man, mer, monsters, undead and demons. I know the difficulty of war. You mentioned a man that haunted your dreams. Multiply that by three thousand and you will understand your Emperor. But he does not feel guilt even if those he killed did not understand why. He does not feel guilty because he knows why they died and who to blame. He just feels sad that others pay the price for people like your king.”
“Now Waycrest is still a bleeding mess but the people love their king and do not fear him. Our king still insists on wasting men on the borders in case of a revenge invasion.”
We arrived at the Embassy and Commander Drugo handed me a letter with Rigmor’s seal on it.
“Please remain here in your office Commander. I will be out shortly and there are things we need to discuss.”
He saluted and I turned to The Sentinel.
“I will exit in a few minutes in my other armour. You are all aware of what will happen after that. We are now directly sticking our noses into other people’s business and not all will be happy about it. You are not to react to any perceived insults or verbal threats. I will do what is required and massaging egos is not needed right now.”
Rados looked confused and I said to him, “Relax. We are not marching on your king or removing any other noble. We are doing as I said, taking on the Witchmen.”
I went to my room and opened the letter,
“My Dear beloved,
I know you will not write to me as you do not wish me to realise the bleakness you face. I know through discussions with Blackwell, Malesam and Freathof what kind of nobility you are dealing with and the desperate situation its people normally face.
Now they have a Daedric Lord spreading chaos and trying to build a gate to this realm to add to their woes.
We have experienced twice together the misery such immortal plans cause for the normal citizen. There is no need to express what we both have seen and felt.
I have a message. I feel an urgency to give it to you. I did some reading to try and understand why and I think I know.
King Laloriaran Dynar is among the stars.
Even though my faith in The Divines is now strong I also realise we are owed no guarantees. We have no contract saying we will be together and eventually live the simple life we crave.
So I will worry and fret and in moments of weakness imagine the worse.
This is the burden of anybody whose loved one is at war.
You are at war my beloved. It is the seemingly never ending war against cruel and ignorant elitism that opens the door to the Daedric Princes.
Kintyra will bring an end to such stupidity and all can enjoy those simple lives.
We both miss you and await your return with impatience and a greatly reduced tolerance for trivial disputes.
The Ruby Throne is no longer feared for tyranny but the caustic tongue of its Queen.
Folded in with the letter was a red flower. I placed it inside my journal along with the others.
I donned my father’s armour and left the room to talk with Commander Drugo.
I entered and Rados took one look, gasped and bowed low. Then from that awkward and uncomfortable position he glanced around at the others, including Commander Drugo, standing at ease and confusion engulfed him.
“Please stand Rados. I am a man and not a God. Let me earn your respect as I do not demand it.”
“I am a little startled Majesty.”
“Not as much as some of your nobles will be. Think on that.”
He did and a huge smile crossed his face.
I sat at Commander Drugo’s desk and he stood before me. The Sentinel took up positions inside and outside the room to prevent spying.
“Commander Drugo, this kingdom may very well find itself fighting hordes from Oblivion very soon. I am trying to prevent that but it may be too late.
The most likely opening of an Oblivion Gate will be within the walls of Arnima or just outside.
I need you to have most of your garrison doing exercises near Arnima for a few days at least. Let it be known you are preparing for an assault on a suspected Witchmen stronghold and are awaiting orders from Cyrodiil. It is imperative that Lord Mortifayne have no reason to assume you will be invading his city.
If you have to leave men behind make them the least likely to survive a fight against what that gate spews out. It is no good having the better fighters here while the lesser get slaughtered there.
There is no need for agreed signals or anything else. If an Oblivion Gate opens the screams of Arnima citizens will be heard in Evermore.
You are then to enter and fight and if you can, escort the citizens to the temple.
Not only will the enemy be reluctant to enter it I intend to place a large guardian to protect it. A Dovah that was once the dreaded enemy of mortals will be their dedicated protector. These things from Oblivion are abominations to Lord Akatosh and therefore to Dov.
Make sure your men are equipped with the best you have. They will need it.
I also advise you be completely honest with what they might have to face. The horror is bad enough without it being a complete surprise as well.
I have every faith you are capable of this Commander.”
He saluted and I left the room to find just about every soldier in the compound crowding The Sentinel and trying to get a look at their Emperor.
I shouted, “Sergeants, get your men ready for inspection in the courtyard. You have three minutes.”
Orders were barked, soldiers obeyed and soon there was silence in the embassy.
Rados asked, “Can I learn to do that?”
“When you put on your granddad’s armour you can order free drinks at any inn. That sounds like a much more useful skill.”
“Have you seen the helmet? I don’t think it would look very heroic drinking mead through a straw.”
After the three minutes I stepped outside and the soldiers were in perfect ranks with surprised looking sergeants scratching their heads.
“Commander Drugo will brief you on an important mission when I leave the compound.
You know me and what I have achieved.
I get the accolades and the mention in the news-sheets but every single time it is ordinary soldiers like you that do the fiddly bits in the background. Those fiddly bits add up and enable me to do the coup de grâce.
I know this is not the most glamorous posting and many of you have felt a lack of respect from the citizens.
That is because they do not appreciate how many problems you save them from just with your very presence.
Unfortunately good often comes with bad attached.
The good may be that you men participate in a battle to save all on Nirn and emerge as heroes.
The bad is that many will die including soldiers, guards and civilians before victory is attained.
Only you can decide the ratio of good vs bad but one thing is clear, if you do your best then you will always be more comfortable with the outcome.
You might not have any say in the events leading up to such a battle but how you feel about it after is entirely up to you and how you conduct yourself.
War is ugly. Expertise in killing is not admirable. Bravery and sacrifice are the qualities that make the Empires soldiers the best.
Good luck and believe me when I say The Divines are on our side.”
We left the compound to cheers and accolades and as usual I felt uncomfortable with them. As we walked toward the Divide many a citizen just stood and gawked.
Serana asked, “Are we heading straight for the Direnni Soul Stone?”
“We will make a slight detour to the Chapel first as I wish to speak to the Governor.”
We walked at a good pace which gave the impression if anybody tried to stop to talk to us they would be trampled.
I entered the temple and spotted the Governor near the shrine to Lady Mara. As I approached her she was in silent prayer and unaware of the slight commotion and murmuring. The Sentinel ensured there was a good distance between us and the onlookers.
Eventually the strangeness of the atmosphere registered and she looked up into my eyes.
“You are him! I mean, greetings your Majesty.”
She bowed deep and I let her stay in that position. Anything that stamped my authority over her was welcome.
“Governor Merosa, I am here to ask a favour.
I do not wish to step on other people’s sovereignty as that causes things such as the Civil War in Skyrim or nations to distance themselves from the Dominion or Empire.
So I am asking you, not ordering you, to refrain from further enraging Lord Mortifayne no matter how agitated you are or justified you feel.
He will be dealt with, I swear by The Divines that is so, but there are things in the background you are unaware of.
If you ignore my request you risk the lives of many people certainly and the entire kingdom most likely.
Trust your Emperor sent by Mother Mara to resolve the issues with minimal bloodshed.
The guilty will be punished you can be assured”
“It will be difficult but I will do as you ask.”
“That is all I ask of you Governor. You may rise”
As she started to straighten we tried to head quickly out of the temple but a certain kitten stepped in my way.
“Is that gold?”
“Yes but it has magic on it so it does not weigh very much.”
“Is it old?”
“Yes, it is old gold.”
“After being worn by you it will be old gold and full of mould!”
“You are a very rude kitten.”
Dusk stood aside for her Emperor and her laughter filled the temple.
Once outside we made our way the Direnni Soul Stone.
A few minutes later we found ourselves in Arnima.
As with the Divide we rushed towards the temple and people scrambled to make way and did not try to talk or stop us.
Serana whispered, “You realise that many are tripping over themselves in a rush not to impede you. You are a noble and they do not want to be whipped or executed for such a grievous offence as getting in your way.”
“I know and it hurts.”
We entered the temple and Rados sat to get his thoughts together whilst I spoke to the priest.
He said, “I see you have convinced him and you are now letting everybody know who you are.”
“If there is one thing better than a hero to boost morale it is two. Although I hate the adulation it is a useful tool sometimes.”
“Why now? Has something changed that has made you abandon the disguise?”
“Your lord is under the influence of Namira and has been for decades. I know your circle is still bumbling along trying to figure out which if any Daedric Prince he worships. There you have it and now you know the enemy. I have known this for several days and have been trying to find a way to stop what is approaching. I may still find a solution but if not an Oblivion Gate will open inside the walls of Arnima or just outside.
Your guards have no hope of defending the citizens so they will have extra help. A large contingent of Imperial troops from the Embassy will enter and do what they can. I will call upon a Dovah who will help protect any citizen trying to make their way to the temple.
I cannot remain behind as the monstrosities from Oblivion will be innumerable. I could spend days killing them and it would make no difference to the rate they appear. So The Sentinel, Rados and I will enter Oblivion and close the gate from there.
This is your temple and your people.
Prepare yourself as best you can.”
“Can I ask if you have known who he is in league with why have you not cut him down?”
“His death would trigger the appearance of the Oblivion Gate. Any move to oust him from office will trigger the appearance of the Oblivion Gate. We have been searching for a solution but I fear we may not find one. I warn you, if called to his side do not let him know his secret is uncovered. That would also be a trigger.”
“How can somebody I have known for years be a devotee of a Daedric Prince and yet I had no suspicions.”
“Two things… I said he was under the influence of a Daedric Prince, not a worshipper or devotee. He is being blackmailed and his mental state is such he believes the lies he is being told. He does not have a shrine to her within his house. He has a portal to one. He does have a shrine to Mother Mara in his house and it is regularly used. I know because it was clean and tidy in a room where dust and grime would accumulate quickly.
He would not praise Namira in public or give any clue as to who he is reluctantly obeying.
Secondly is what you have accepted as norm. His brutality is only marginally worse than expected for a noble of this land. All of the random murders and executions are okay as long as trade and money making continues. If he runs low on serfs because he has murdered them all then something might be said as that would affect trade and profits.
I saw at the meeting where he threatened you just for speaking. I do not condemn you for not lecturing him on his actions. I do condemn the acceptance in this kingdom of brutality and slavery.”
“Will not a Dragon cause great fear?”
“He will speak and people will listen. Staying in their homes will not save them. Getting to this temple is their best hope. If we knew for certain when the gate will be triggered we could have everybody in here in preparation but once again that would trigger Mortifayne if he got word of it. When the slaughter starts the Dragon will be the least scary creature they will see.”
I walked over to Rados.
“I know you were a pikeman but do you know how to wield Mados’ two handed sword?”
“I had training in it years ago. I have been working as a blacksmith for years so I assume my strength might compensate for lack of finesse. My time in the militia and the fighting in Waycrest taught me how to face down a foe.”
“The Kai-katana is much easier to wield than a normal two handed. I don’t expect you to scythe through enemies like The Sentinel. Do not be afraid to go defensive if a foe seems too much. We are fighting side by side and one of us will aid you without any words needing to be exchanged.”
“From the rumours that fed back to Evermore you lot don’t leave much for others anyway.”
“The most important thing is to instantly obey my orders like I was a drill sergeant. Trust that I have vast experience in these things and will not lead you astray. You had better don the armour.”
We helped Rados don his grandfather’s armour and it was magnificent except for the helm which was quite battered.
“What is with the helmet Rados?”
“I have no idea. I don’t think it was made by the same armourer. Maybe it was a friends or something.”
I picked up the Kai-katana and did some exercises and patterns. It was a fine sword and I could see why the Akaviri and The Blades liked to use its type.
Rados said, “That was impressive and you use sword and shield normally!”
“I like two handed swords but look like a beginner next to my Queen. She is the best I have ever seen.”
I handed him his sword and said, “We are tackling the Witchmen head on. We will us a Derinni Soul Stone to bypass a valley full of them and head straight for the cave system they infest.”
“I was hoping you would say that, no need in pissing off the entire valley.”
We left the temple and walk to the Direnni Soul Stone. We stepped through the portal and Rados asked, “How come my armour is not shining like it is supposed to?”
“It will when there is danger. You do not have to say an incantation or anything else. I can tell the dweomer on it will create a light uncomfortable to undead and unnatural, such as demon spawn. It will also help keep you healthy and give you stamina. I think it will also heal those near to you.”
“People say they can see Mother Mara in it.”
“When she appears as an avatar to us it is usually a bright light. No doubt she could appear as a beautiful woman, and she has in the past, but the light makes us concentrate on her message and not her beauty. Your armour’s brightness probably allows whatever the viewer’s imagination desires to manifest itself.”
“What about my grip on the sword?”
“That is good for the speed of that sword. It allows fast blocking as well as deadly sweeps. Not so good for stabbing though. I think most of our enemy will need hacking more than stabbing so stick with it if comfortable.”
Just before the entrance to the cave system a very tough one eyed monster thing attacked us.
I used a Slow Time Shout and Rados and I hacked at it whilst the others peppered it with arrows.
When it finally fell I told the out of breath Rados, “Look at your armour. It is glowing just like I said it would. Relax, he was tough and you did well. You will find if you just breath as normal as possible you can still hack away as well.”
We entered the caverns and they were full of Witchmen who died by the dozens to our swords and spells. Rados was getting more relaxed and a better swordsman as we went.
We eventually reached the main ritual chamber and in the distance I could see a Hagraven Matriarch. That is what the locals called the Hagraven with the bird head and they seemed to be priestesses of Namira.
It launched itself at me and the others found themselves battling an assortment of beasts and Witchmen.
I cut it down easily and joined the others in making short work of those conducting the dark rituals.
Rados was proud he faced a big ugly head on and cut it down.
“If they are the ugliest then I will be alright I think.”
“They are not denizens of Oblivion. These guys are the good looking enemy you will face.”
That was a sophisticated bone sculpture. Its posture looked like it was indicating the thing in it left hand was worth more than its right. What they were symbolising I have no idea.
It was on top of a shrine to Namira.
We made our way outside to another part of the valley and into the middle of a large melee. Jackos and few others had come to see if they could help and guessed where we would emerge.
After we killed all the Witchmen and beasties I approached Jackos and he said, “So the Emperor emerges from the savages hole and the legends appear true. Or am I seeing ghosts?”
“Good to see you and your men. As for me, I am mortal and bleed like any other. Also, did you not notice our glowing friend over there? He has done well against monsters he never would have imagined.”
“Yes, you share our black humour, mortal down to the very bone.”
“So any particular reason you are here?”
“I would like to say they were worried about their Emperor but in reality we are just here to kill as many of the Witchmen as we can and make sure they do not return with a dark ritual.”
“Anything else I need to know?”
“I contacted our friends in Evermore and they are going to send the Ustase down to clean house. You would know many of the new recruits of these criminals-turned-militia.”
“Some of Sethius’ New Imperials I assume. If I had known we would have left more Witchmen for them to die fighting.”
“They are a law unto themselves. An indication of how corrupt the kingdom has become when scum like that is hired instead of professional soldiers.”
“I will cut them down if I see them breaking Empire law. Down to the last one of them if need be. Your nobles will soon learn they too are subject to those laws.”
Just then a Gorgon from Oblivion screamed a challenge from up high and then landed amongst us knocking many off their feet.
As others stood gawking The Sentinel and I went in swinging.
Terrifying it was but immortal it wasn’t. It died before many of the others joined the fight.
Jackos asked, “What in Oblivion was that?”
“It was a Gorgon and can be found in many of the planes of Oblivion. For it to attack us here there must be rifts in Martin’s shield already appearing. You might see other strange creatures not of this world start to appear more often. It still takes an Oblivion Gate for an invasion to occur.”
“I thought the priest was being dramatic, portents of doom are all that drips from his lips at the moment. But now I see there was some truth to his words.”
“The priests of this land were all blind to what was happening. They still would be if I had not told them. They have failed you all as much as your ‘nobility’.”
“He asks that you attend to him as soon as you can. He says one of your fears may come to fruition. Is it what you said, an Oblivion Gate?”
“That is a certainty if particular things happen. It appears they have but I might still have time to stop it. I would leave this place to the Ustase and prepare for the worst in Arnima if I was you.”
“We will head there as soon as we can.”
I gathered The Sentinel and we headed for the temple in Arnima.
We got there without incident and I approached the priest.
“Majesty, I fear that our king has decided to act on Mortifayne and has sent men to support Governor Merosa with his ousting.”
“Why now? Does he know about the connection to Namira?”
“The Arch-Bishop does not think so. The last straw was trade being halted and interrupted by my lord’s actions.”
“Of course, kill as many peasants as you want but do not dare interfere with trade. It is about time I spoke to him.”
“The priest from the Divide says the Governor has somehow learned of the Mortifayne/Namira connection. She now believes it is her duty to confront him.”
“I doubt that is her motivation. I asked her not to do this. I think her hatred for Mortifayne is not natural. She is obsessed with him. Support from your king has just pushed her over the edge and now she will confront him with righteous anger and endanger us all.”
“It will take time for her to muster and ride forth. You should have time to speak to the Arch Priest. Perhaps he can provide some advice to turn her from this course.”
Ulkarin approached and said, “Seems things are taking a turn for the worse.”
I address him and Rados and said, “This is what I do as not just Emperor but Champion of The Divine. Mother Mara has asked me to be here and so I shall stay till I have rooted out the evil of this land. If either of you wish to remain you are free to do so without a stain on your honour. Facing down mortals and beasts in battle is one thing. Facing the corrupted things from Oblivion is another.”
They both voiced their wish to help so we left the temple and ran to the Direnni Soul Stone.
We ran to the temple and the early hour, about 4:30AM, meant only a few startled guards and citizens saw us pass.
We approached the Arch-Bishop and I said, “Do you have information relevant or am I wasting precious time here?”
“Your Majesty, you of all people know how fragile the barrier of Martin’s Sacrifice is.”
“It would be sufficient if the type of cruelty and idiocy you have watched and allowed to fester did not exist. I am not here to lecture or be told what I already know.”
“We believe Namira’s plot to be directed at the Ada-mantia itself.”
“What could she possibly do to the Adamantine Tower? The Direnni Tower as you call it?”
“It is unknown but the ravings of several captured Witchmen make reference to the Zero Stone.”
“The metaphysical, the eight towers and the liminal barrier are all a mystery to even me who deals with immortals constantly. There are still locked rooms within the Ada-mantia that have such complex mechanical locks they have never been opened! All I can do is concentrate on what I know.”
“Majesty, I thought this information important otherwise I would not have asked you here. You should also be aware that Knight Horustair has recently been seen departing for Raven Spring with his party. They will be convening with Merosa before ousting Mortifayne from his throne.”
“Are they aware of the Mortifayne and Namira connection? Does your king know?”
“The Circle does not think so. This was triggered by problems with trade.”
“And they have paperwork from your king to support their legality?”
“Yes, I am afraid so.”
“So that is the real reason I am here. You did not want to be seen asking the Emperor to step on your king’s toes. Then prey Arch-Bishop. I will go speak to your king and seek a nullification of the paperwork. I could just order them to desist but it is better for all if your king is seen to be in control and not I.”
We left the temple and headed for the palace.
I ordered my team to remain outside the throne room and prevent anybody exiting or entering it.
A man came hurrying around a corner after hearing the commotion and came to an abrupt stop when he saw me. He quickly regained his composer and bowed before me.
“Your royal Majesty, I am Kegor, Advisor to King Sigmayne. Forgive our lack of welcome but we were not forewarned of your visit.”
“I have been in your lands for a week now. Mother Mara herself asked me to leave my pregnant Queen and come wading in the filth that is your kingdom. To find the sources of this filth it was easier to be seen as mercenary or Imperial General. The people here are badly done by but I am sure you have heard of our efforts to change their lot in life.”
“And we are grateful beyond words as my liege will be happy to express. Do you seek audience?”
“That is why I am standing in your corridor and why my men are guarding the door. It is to be a private conversation so please, introduce me, no honorifics, and dismiss everybody else, including yourself, from the throne room.”
Kegor straightened and entered the room. I followed protocol and walked slightly back and to his left.
King Sigmayne’s eyes and mouth registered shock, and then fear, as I approached.
He stood but did not yet bow and Kegor said, “King Sigmayne, I present to you Emperor Wulf Septim.”
Kegor turned and briskly left the room. Whilst he was doing that Sigmayne bowed low.
When I heard the doors close with a bang I addressed him, “You can straighten Your Majesty, I am not one for pomp and ceremony.”
Sigmayne stood straight but had to look up as I was close to him and considerably taller. Protocol would not allow him to sit unless I did. My anger was palpable. I did not try and suppress it.
“You have sent a delegation to relieve Lord Mortifayne of his throne. He has been murdering and torturing his citizens for years. Why act now?”
“Recently he started interfering with the trade caravans and merchants. His men have been seizing select goods and even complete cargoes. This is unacceptable!”
“So the motivation was not to stop the barbaric acts of a madman but to keep trade and a percentage of transactions flowing into your coffers. Not a surprise from a selfish despot such as yourself.”
His face turned red and he was about to speak then stared into the eyes of a Dovah.
“I am not interested in hearing your pathetic excuses. All I need from you is a piece of paper telling the Governor and your men that you have changed your mind and Lord Mortifayne is to be left alone. You will do this otherwise Oblivion will arrive in your kingdom and more of the Empire’s citizens will be killed due to your neglect.
You are probably wondering why I need your signature when I can just go and order them myself.
If Lord Mortifayne sees that you withdrew the troops he is more likely to feel secure and less likely to start the last ritual needed to open an Oblivion Gate.”
“What do you mean an Oblivion Gate? What are you talking about?”
“I see shrines to The Divine in this throne room and wonder if you are ignorant of their Commandments or have just chosen to ignore them? I do not have time to tell you what has been happening in your kingdom. Talk to you Arch Bishop while I go and try and save the innocent from the evil you allowed to grow. Now write that parchment and shut the fuck up.”
He knew his life hung by a thread. He looked beside his throne and picked up a writing board, parchment and quill and seemed bewildered.
“Sit on your throne and I will pretend to be your advisor for a minute.”
He sat and I secured the parchment to the board, sharpened a quill, dipped in the ink then handed it all to him.
“What do I write?”
“It is bad enough I had to do those basic tasks for you. Do you know how to wipe your own arse or does Kegor do that as well?”
“How about you write exactly what I said before. You have simply changed your mind. You are king and you do not need to explain why.”
He scribbled a quick message and handed it to me.
I quickly read it and handed it back, “Good enough. Seal it and I will be on my way.”
He managed to melt some wax and seal the message without help. Maybe he did wipe his own arse?
With a shaking hand he gave me the message and remained seated.
“How does it feel to have somebody with the power of life and death stand over you and belittle you? How does it feel to not know if you may have done something or are about to do something that could cost you your life? This is not nobility before you. This is a primitive beast slave to its wants. This is the fake nobility of you and your ilk. Mother Mara wants me to solve the problems of your kingdom via diplomacy. Let us hope I am not too late to do so or innocent victims will die next to fake nobility.“
I stormed out of the room and The Sentinel fell into formation. I slammed the door open and found a crowd of curious onlookers gasping and making way as their Emperor stormed towards the Direnni Soul Stone.
I heard Advisor Vaeser call out, “May the Divine give you strength and show pity for the people.”
We stepped through the portal and rushed to the gates of Raven Spring but my famous luck failed me this time. The two parties were already facing each other and egos clashed whilst Namira laughed.
- Merosa: It is time priest. You lord has been conspiring with his dark mistress. I doubt you were ignorant of this betrayal of Mother Mara. I have here the legal orders from King Sigmayne. Are you a traitor to your king as well as your gods?
- Wulf: Governor Merosa, you gave your word that you would not do this. I ask you to withdraw for the sake of the innocents.
- Merosa: You gained that promise via deceit. Luckily Fenrig told me of this unholy alliance. Are you part of Namira’s plan as well?
- Wulf: Do not use the knowledge of Namira as an excuse. Swear by Mother Mara that you did not intend to break that promise before Fenrig did what is unforgivable. Just like the discovery of Hagraven twenty years ago, you are looking for an excuse to justify the deaths of innocents so you can sleep at night.
- Merosa: I will not be responsible for their deaths.
- Wulf: Priest, of all The Circle you are the only one I trust so tell me, where is your lord?
- Priest of The Nine: Pardon Majesty, a last minute detail within the manor. He will be with us shortly.
- Wulf: Then he has probably set in motion what Mother Mara has asked me to prevent. I will not blame myself for this failure. The corruption was complete and you Governor Merosa are the cause of what is to follow.
- Merosa: Says the Emperor who knew of this unholy alliance and instead of striking down the Daedric worshipper played hero for the people.
- Wulf: I told you there were things you were not aware of. That I was working to prevent this very scenario. You had already asked your king for those orders before Fenrig betrayed his Gods. You had decided this apparent trade embargo or whatever it is was costing you money and that is your God not Mother Mara. Read this before it is too late.
I handed her the note from Sigmayne. She read it and her face went white.
- Knight Horustair: I wish I could have made your acquaintance earlier your Majesty. I see the seal of my liege on that note.
- Wulf: It withdraws any legality to this action. You are to leave and not threaten Lord Mortifayne with removal. That is also my wish and since you profess to be citizens of The Empire you will obey or be charged with treason. Understood?
And to prove my luck deserted me this day ol’ Monti made a dramatic entry into the discussion. He stormed through the gates and stood next to the priest.
- Mortifayne: The Hag rears her head at last! So you finally had your way with the King?! Why do you persist to harass me vulture?
- Merosa: Horustair here will see to your death if you try anything brash little ‘lord’. You have stained the Kingdom of Evermore with your ill acts. Your capturing of trade goods and intimidation of merchants have brought ruin to your town and The Reach. Your rights as royalty are now forfeit.
- Wulf: They are not! Your King and Your Emperor have both ordered you to withdraw. Do so now or it will be you who is arrested and stripped of nobility.
- Mortifayne: You show your true face at last Majesty. My mistress told me who you are. Apparently here to save your Empire but it is too late. Let them place a new ass on that seat but the town itself belongs to her.
- Wulf: It is not too late. You do not have to give in to her whispers. She has no power over you. It was a mortal who killed your wife, not Namira. He listened to her whispers. The Witchmen listen to her whispers. You were fighting back and she took her away from you but relied on a mortal to do so. The shrine to Mother Mara you maintain and pray to shows me who your real mistress is. I am here at her request to stop this madness.
- Mortifayne: I have done what was demanded to gain Namira’s favour for my people. They will live if I obey. I was wrong to oppose her and my wife died for that mistake. I must protect my people. She has shown her power. Mother Mara has not.
- Wulf: Did she promise this? They are bound to obey a verbal contract. But it has not been her talking to you has it. You have received instructions from her intermediary. He can lie as much as he wants. I wore your amulet. He spoke to me. I know who he is. Do you?
- Mortifayne: He said he is the Last King.
- Wulf: That is what that wretched creature believes but Lord Akatosh himself has let me know that the soul of King Laloriaran Dynar is not in the possession of some foul Daedric Prince but safe amongst the stars. He abandoned his mistress, Meridia. My friend over there, Serana, denied Molag Bal and is no longer a Daughter of Coldharbour. All you have to do to escape is remove that amulet and listed to The Divines, not those who want to destroy everything you see.
- Mortifayne: It may be too late. It is set in motion.
- Wulf: If so you have doomed yourself. The amulet was not just to pass messages on to you. A King needs a body to sit upon any throne. Your soul will be ripped from your body and tossed into the void. Your memories and who you are will be torn from your mind and replaced by those of the false king. She made no promise to you. Your people will not be spared. Your body will be his.
Mortifayne considered what I said and knew the truth. Like any injured animal he lashed out at his tormentor.
- Mortifayne: Maybe if I go back she will listen. But this whore should be the first to taste her domain.
- Wulf: No, do not give in…
Mortifayne gestured with his hands. There was no verbal content to the spell and no dweomer did I detect. Merosa screamed and her head fell and hit the ground before the collapsing body did. As everybody stood in shock he ran back into town and undoubtedly to the shrine through the portal. He was going to plead but what he just did showed it was too late.
I used my Thu’um at full strength, “COMMANDER DRUGO. THE TOWN NEEDS YOU IMMEDIATELY.”
I knew he would hear it. I could hear his sergeants barking orders as we ran from the Direnni Soul Stone earlier. He was not far away.
“Mortifayne was an expert swordsman. That was the power of a foul spell, not a sword. Let us enter town and prepare to help the citizens. It is too late to stop the Oblivion Gate but maybe I can still ruin her plans for his body.”
We entered the town in time to see Mortifayne rushing up the stairs to his abode. Some of his loyal troops stood as if to block our way.
Horustair yelled to one of the knights in our way, “Move aside Sek. That is no longer your lord you protect.”
“Shut it cunt. The lord has done us good. He gives us runts to kill every day and hills of gold. I can’t say the same for the King or the clown in gold armour.”
I did a half strength Unrelenting Force Shout. I did not intend to kill them. These animals will soon be fighting for their lives and that means less Oblivion creatures concentrating on the civilians. As they flew backwards I continue my pursuit of Mortifayne only to be blocked by a guard who recovered and was on his feet quicker than I expected.
“Move aside, there is no need to die at my hands.”
He swung his sword and I decapitated him.
Then the sky turned red and Oblivion horrors appeared in terrifying numbers.
Knight Horustair asked, “What can I do to help?”
“The sight of a Knight will bolster the courage of these people. We could kill thousands of the foul beasts that will appear but it will not be enough as they will keep appearing. The only way to stop the slaughter is for me and my comrades to enter Oblivion and close the gate. You need to help the people reach the temple. That will protect them for quite some time but not indefinitely. If we close the gate many of the lesser creatures will die. Some of the larger will still need killing.”
“I shall do so your majesty. I see your soldiers have arrived.”
Imperial Troops were streaming into town and immediately set about any creature trying to stop the panicked citizens from reaching the temple.
“Sentinel, around me. I need to speak to somebody.”
The Sentinel, Rados and Ulkarin surrounded me and I summoned Odahviing. He appeared out of the ether and hovered over me.
“Dovahkiin, these are the soldiers of my father’s enemies!”
“Yes, they are and I need you to kill like you have never killed before but please, be careful of my people. They are fleeing to your father’s house. Every one of them killed by these creatures from Oblivion will pass another soul onto your father’s enemy and strengthen her. This one is Namira and I go now to stop her.”
“In all my time I have never had the chance to fight my father’s enemies like this. My ferocity will be of a new order. Tooth and claw will render their foulness. I will be careful and only use Thu’um where your people will not be harmed.”
“Please speak our language and assure the people you mean no harm. Should I summon Durnehviir?”
“No Dovahkiin, his connection to that other realm makes him vulnerable to this Namira. The people will see me killing the creatures. They will know my side. I wish you luck on you quest.”
I spotted Jackos in the distance standing transfixed by what was occurring.
“Sentinel, go and help for a while. The bulk of people who will make it to the temple will do so in the first few minutes. We must then enter the portal. I will call for you and wait in front of it.”
As they ran off I headed towards Jackos.
I stood before him and said, “Jackos, your people need you.”
“I don’t know how to help. I have watched for the last few minutes. They kill them and more appear. Your Dragon is very good at it but see the Imperials and guards are falling. Is it just delaying the inevitable?”
“Only if we stay here and fight. To win this we must enter Oblivion and search for the fake Direnni Tower in that realm. That is where they will have the Sigil Stone. If we destroy it the gate will close and the kingdom will be saved. I will enter with The Sentinel and Rados. The more we have with us the more chance we can make it to the tower.”
“I will head there now. Do not be too long. The people are making it to the temple but the defenders are not going to last.”
Jackos headed for the Oblivion Gate and I looked across to the melee near the temple. Odahviing was crunching bones at a great rate and had become the centre of attention for the larger beasts. He roared defiance and outflew the Gorgons easily. Despite his obvious rage he was true to his word. Where Thu’um could have done the killing with less risk or time involved he used mouth and claw.
I could only see a few civilian bodies. Guards and Imperial soldiers fought and died side by side and their numbers were slowly being whittled away.
My Thu’um roared, “SENTINEL, TO THE GATE, NOW”
I dispatched several beasts as I made my way there.
When we were all assembled I summoned two Dragon Priests who glided away to join the battle.
“Okay, we should all appear next to each other but there is a chance you may pop up further in. If so wait for however length of time you think necessary. Hopefully we will see you as we travel towards the tower. That is our destination, a reproduction of the Adamantine Tower. That is where they will have the Sigil Stone. We must destroy that stone to close the gate.”
I stepped through and the others followed. In front of us was a large but inert bone sculpture.
“Did Rados step through with us?”
Serana replied, “He was very keen to do so and almost pushed me through in his enthusiasm.”
“Well hopefully we find him. Jackos had entered not long before us. This place smells and looks strange but your weapons, spells, potions and everything else work exactly the same as on Nirn. Just kill and ignore the surroundings. Let us go.”
We headed directly away from the gate. We could not yet see the tower.
Ulkarin said, “Gods… this whole place reeks! What is this place? We gotta find a way out of here mate.”
“Does this not feel familiar? It is the Scuttling Void, Namira’s slice of Oblivion. Only this time you have solid ground beneath you and not some giant immortal’s womb.”
“Did you have to remind me?”
A few minutes later we spotted Jackos. He looked relieved when he saw us.
We ran to him and he asked me, “What do we do now?”
“We keep heading in this direction and hopefully we see the Direnni Tower. That is our destination.”
“The priest was running towards the gate and so were a small squad of guards under the command of that fake knight, Sek”
“If we see them we get them. We will not search for them.”
We proceeded a bit further and heard the clash of weapons. We ran and found Rados fighting a couple of smaller beasts. We killed them and Rados sounded panicked.
“Jack, Majesty. I don’t know if I want to be part of this. What dungpit have we landed in?”
“It is the Scuttling Void, a part of Oblivion. You just chopped up a couple of the creatures and you armour is glowing. Everything works the same here but the wildlife is not so pretty. You will be okay.”
I spotted the tower in the distance.
“Everybody, that tower is our target. It is a reproduction of the Direnni Tower. It will be where the Sigil Stone is. OK?”
They all nodded agreement and we headed towards it at a good pace.
We encountered many of the weaker beasts and only one Gorgon shadowed us. It seemed Namira was throwing all she had at Nirn. She was either confident we would not reach the tower or perish climbing it.
I was sick of the Gorgon flying overhead and brought it down with a huge Unrelenting Force Shout.
Jackos said, “It is one thing to read about the Thu’um. To see it being used is another.”
Serana said to him, “Lots of people say exactly the same thing. I still find it fascinating after witnessing it hundreds of times.”
We crossed a bridge and I commented, “This is a poor reproduction of the Whalebone Bridge in Sovngarde. Sorry Ulkarin, no huge mead hall at the end though.”
More creatures attacked and were slain. In the distance I could see some form of fort.
Not much further on we came across the priest.
“Gods graces! You made it!”
“I am glad to see you here. Have you seen anybody else?”
“Yes but only a few and in the far distance. Are we going to go get them?”
“No, we are heading for the tower. If we spend time looking for them more people on Nirn die. Did the Arch Bishop’s discovery reach you?”
“No, I am at a loss as to what to do. I know we need to find and destroy a Sigil Stone but where to look for it. I saw that fort and decided to stay here for a while hoping you would find me.”
“Namira plans to put a God-King on the throne in Evermore. It appears she also wants to put a fake Direnni tower on Nirn. To what purpose I do not know.”
“So that tower in the distance. I thought it looked familiar but the colours here are muted and there is no sun to shine off it like the magnificent Adamantine Tower.”
“That is our destination. That is where the Sigil Stone will be.”
“How can you be sure?”
Serana piped up, “His Majesty has saved Nirn and confronted Daedric Princes on many occasions. Trust to his instincts. None of us would be alive if he did not know what he is doing. This Daedric Prince is just another he is going to piss off by spoiling their plan.”
“She already hated me for destroying her cannibal cult in Skyrim.”
“Yes Wulf but there is nothing they hate more than Sigil Stones being destroyed. It puts them in a foul mood for millennia.”
“Great, so Malacath will not speak to me for a while then?”
We fought many creatures on the way to the tower but their numbers were not what I was expecting.
At its base I turned to Jackos and the priest and said, “I need you two to head back and out of the Oblivion Gate. We have cleared the way here so you should not have to fight to get there.”
Jackos asked, “Why? Don’t you need help to get up that damned tower?”
“The number we have will suffice. I have seen nothing to remotely challenge us. The bulk of the defence is probably protecting the Sigil Stone and in the confines of the tower we will already be tripping over each other. But there is a more important reason.”
The priest said, “They will need our help in the town. Jackos will be the only authority left apart from those fake knights and I doubt they will dare risk the crowd turning on them as they have no Mortifayne to hide behind.”
“Correct, and you are the only one of The Circle I trust. Go back and use your skills to heal both spirit and body. Be the face of The Divines in this time of horror. You will be amazed on how much that will mean to the normal citizen.”
“Good luck to you all Majesty. You are the Champion of The Divines and I thank Mother Mara she sent you.”
Jackos added, “It has been an honour fighting beside you. If only the people of Evermore could experience real nobility. They deserve it.”
With that they turned and headed back the way we came.
Blocking the entrance to the tower were thick red vines pulsating with the heartbeat of their dark mother. I wondered if Namira felt pain every time I burnt the foul things. Obviously it was not pleasant otherwise they would not bend out of the way.
In the courtyard were many bone sculptures. The only thing that disturbed me was the remains of a small child. He or she had been flayed while alive and covering its eyes from the horror. Now silent screams echoed in my imagination. Tears formed and anger grew.
Rados said, “I do not know if I will ever be the same. It is bad enough seeing the faces of men I have slain in combat. This child was probably one of our King’s playthings. I cannot help but think a man with such deranged appetites has to be in league with this immortal bitch.”
“I don’t know if he is Rados. You do not need the whisperings of a Daedric Prince to be evil.”
A few weaker creatures attacked us and died in the last defence of the door.
We entered and I said, “The same rules apply here as outside and on Nirn. As you can see the runes placed by Mara on Mados’ armour are working overtime to protect us in the centre of Namira’s evil. Your weapons and spells will kill just as well as they have been. Let us go and fuck up her plans for her.”
As expected each room contained horrors. Whether it be the hanging corpse of a Stormcloak soldier…
… or the model of a destroyed town in Evermore.
Endless flesh and bone sculptures and the occasional attack by lesser creatures made the trudge up the seemingly endless stairs a torture in itself.
Finally a familiar voice echoed, “I will take your quill, and I will make the change.”
Calder asked, “A friend of yours Wulf. And what the fuck was he talking about.”
“That is the voice that was in Mortifayne’s head. It thinks it is the Last King reborn.
This is what I think is happening but it is purely speculation at the moment. Namira is trying to rewrite history. That is the reference to taking the quill and making the change. She hopes to insert this fake tower at the beginning of time. Replace the Zero Stone with something of her making. Make Namira the chief God to replace Akatosh. We are getting into the metaphysical once more and that generates unlimited and baseless speculation from the best mortal scholars and mages. For the same reasons we can’t view a God in its true form and stay sane, the fundamentals of creation are not comprehended by our mortal brains. We can make sense only of things our senses feed back to us. None of you can feel the flow of time like I can. That is a sense you do not have. How many other senses do these immortals possess? The real tower was created outside of time and contemplating that is mind numbing. So I expect a whole heap of super refined gobblygook from our friend with the quill. He will be guarding the Sigil Stone.”
At the top of the stairs was a portal. We touched it.
The portal transported us to the roof of the tower. The Sigil Stone was there protected by a barrier. A weird looking open hand could be seen on a landing between staircases.
The false king approached and said, “So the married messengers assail us, nor despair or decay could halt the march of destiny. Will the story of your flesh end in tragedy or triumph.”
“Did we get married Rados? How pissed off is High Queen Rigmor going to be? You believe yourself to be King Laloriaran Dynar reborn? Well you are wrong. By the way, I knew you when you were just an incomplete foetus chained in your mother’s womb. How time flies. Look at you, all grown up and everything.”
“The corporeal was The King who reigned over flesh and mud all the same. In those mortal years my aid was sought after from Mer in the west. Brothers of same flesh, same wants – we congealed for the race. Superficial, yet penetrating so deeply.”
“The Direnni also sought aid from Nords from Skyrim and the Bosmer and Reachmen from within their Hegemon. Man and Manmer fought beside the mer. If the history placed in your head was not fiction you would know that. “
“Mortals are locked behind the eyes, forever beholden by the spectacle provided. Carnality flows down from those organs – libido, hunger, dominance. I hope the patchwork below had given insight; Art etched into the very edifice of this red land. Convention betrayed, desecrated woman before the virtuous man, the civilised devoured by the subaltern. Want eating want – a tale you’ve come to know, cattle as you are. Here lays all that’s aberrant, all of nature’s most hated.”
“Smell can make a blind person hunger. Touch can make a blind person desire their partner. Dominance can be sought by a blind despot with followers who will strike out at those they can’t see or take what they covet but can’t see. A deaf person can touch the throat of one talking and learn to hear. We are not beholden by what our senses tell us. A well fed person will only hunger if the food is of a type and consistency and smell that pleases them. Their libido will only lead to strife if they direct it at the wrong vessel to satisfy their lust such as certain kings and their predilection for little girls. Dominance is not a desire generated by any of our senses. It is a product of upbringing such as a false concept of entitlement or the fervent wish for revenge on those who suppress. You speak with no concept of what a mortal is. Your mistress is like all of her kind. They did not make us. They do not understand us.”
“Pragmatic flesh-cattle, listening for reason – let the soul gain your ears. Let your guts listen, let them churn from these primordial truths. The misery you’ve witnessed, carved through your temporal home, is mirrored here. Both worlds drown in the tears of wanting mortals. Your flesh-cattle were wading this red mire well before this hallowed hour.”
“Where is the laughter of the children? The words of lovers intimate? What here represents the delight of discovering truths hidden in light reflecting off water? This place mirrors a tiny part of what mortals experience in a lifetime. Even the most downtrodden can find joy and beauty in our world. Where is that mirrored here? This is no mirror but a poorly produced copy where the artist fails miserably to capture the essence of the original. My Gods create, they are the artists. All your mistress and her kind can do is try and mould perfection into something that satisfies them. Then try and convince others it is a good thing and not an ugly reproduction. You have been sold a forgery and you are the biggest fake of all.”
There was hesitancy in creature before me. It did not expect such total rejections of its pathetic metaphors.
“Tell us your plan oh great reborn Last King. Surely you need to gloat at our stupidity before killing us. It would not be cliché if you didn’t”
“Inquisitive flesh puppet, the Kalpa has a destiny of doom. Your world will fade and chaos will fall upon Oblivion once more. With your clean fresh tower, the grim mother god will ensure survival into the next world, as this tower displaces the first on yours. The deception will be complete, and when beings in the next world assemble to build the same constructs, the idea of Namira will be in their plans. Their arms will erect the frame, and our tools will make the tower whole. Their world will be mother’s creation.”
“How fucking stupid can these Daedric Princes get? The tower was built by Lord Akatosh AFTER the construction of the world. Only the Aedra can create. Your mother and her ilk can only change as I explained minutes ago. Where is the deception when mere minutes ago this flesh puppet figured out what you were planning? Every time the cycle starts again there is one being who is constant and that is the lord of time, Akatosh. He is well aware of this pathetic plan as he has been with others I and other mortals have thwarted.
But this is not her real plan. You may think it is as you mistakenly think you are the soul of the Last King. You are a diversion. She is not stupid enough to believe this plan would work and she has made it too easy for us to stop. So you will soon go back to the void and Namira will be upset that I stay and wait for Lady Mara to lead me to the real plan. All I have to do is follow her light. So I will snoop and investigate and like I uncovered this one I will uncover the real one.”
“Exposition is trite for your destiny remains the same, my decimation or yours, conflict is always the resolution of gods and kings. Let fate play.”
“But I am a King. You are the soul of an idiot and not a God. Your corporeal form was not Ayleid but Altmer. Quote, ‘Brothers of same flesh, same wants – we congealed for the race. Superficial, yet penetrating so deeply.’ Close enough in race that you thought you could use King Dynar’s crown to absorb his soul and become him reborn. But the mortal Champion of Cyrodiil fooled you. He gave you the Crown of Lindai instead. You marched into the throne room of the destroyed city of Nenalata and performed the ritual and perished. But Namira found a use for your soul and desire and here you are, a diversion who is going to once again be cast into the void. Not a soon to be God-King. Just a fool by the name of Umbacano.”
The enraged entity attacked and although taking damage it was apparent he was somehow regenerating. He would blink away from the fight, regain his health and renew his attack. Like with many other opponents he concentrated on me and ignored my allies.
The only usual thing in the area was the weird hand. I had no idea what it was but hit it hard with “The Sword”.
The barrier around the Sigil Stone vanished and the entity screamed.
I leapt in front of it and cut it down.
It lay dead like some many thousands of other foes before me. No God, just a misled mortal.
Before Namira’s altar was the husk of Lord Mortifayne.
“Okay, I am about to destroy the Sigil Stone. We should be transported to where the gate was. Ready?”
Everybody nodded and I hit the Sigil Stone with all my might.
A flash and then the cold stone floor of the road where the gate was met my collapsing figure. I could hear the others around me moaning and a couple retching terribly.
Then a cheer arose from the direction of the temple. They had survived.
I sat up and stared at the seemingly happy Dovah hovering above me.
“Dovahkiin, you once again prove your Thu’um has no match.”
“Are you hurt?”
“Just more scars. Many mortals made it into father’s house. Many mortal warriors lie dead. Many buildings burn. It is like countless battles I have been in. Looking at the sight it would be hard to believe these were the victors.”
“Thank you for your help Odahviing.”
He flew off a distance then vanished into the ether.
We slowly got to our feet and the nausea was soon gone.
The Sentinel made their way around the town and helped to put out fires and rescue people from collapsed buildings. Injured were taken to the temple where they replaced the residents who had fled there. The healthy residents emerged and though much shock was shown they immediately joined the Imperial troops, guards and The Sentinel in the doing what they could to help their town and other survivors.
Rados and I made our way to where Knight Horustair and the priest stood staring over the town.
“Priest, it is good to see you made it.”
“Thanks to the sacrifice of Jackos I did. We were almost at the gate when many different creatures attacked. I stayed by his side but my magic was useless. He pushed me towards the gate and told me to go. So I left him and stepped through. I waited but he did not emerge. After a while I rushed to the temple to start healing both soul and body. The guards and Imperial troops were tiring but fighting on bravely. The Dragon was magnificent and dispatched the beasts at a terrific rate. Only when the cheers went up did I know the gate was closed. I have only just emerged to see the damage.”
“Jackos is a great loss. If he was alive when the gate closed he will be stuck in that place and will probably not survive long. There is nothing The Divine can do to rescue him. That place is closed to them.”
Horustair said, “I can’t, we can’t thank you enough for the perils you’ve been through. I will make sure you are knighted for this deed Rados.”
Rados replied, “Not sure any title can make up for the things I saw in that terrible realm. Before any celebrations, let me have a rest.”
Rados wandered away and I said, “He will go back to his anvil. He will try and forget. He will never don that armour again.”
I asked the priest, “What do you think will happen next?”
“We have lost two governing bodies in the space of a day. If news of this tragedy goes beyond this land we will become prey.”
“No it will not, if I have to call in a complete legion I will. There will be no more wars for territory under the reign of High Queen Rigmor and me.”
“The King will have to deliberate on replacements. It may take some time.”
“Then I may have to install Governors in the meantime. The people need leadership at this time.”
“The people have experienced much trauma in a short time and the recovery will not be swift.”
“You will be amazed at their resilience. The deciding factor will be who they rebuild for. Will they build a new society from the ashes that gives the same rights as the rest of The Empire. Or will they be saddled with the same type of nobles that died.”
“What are you going to do Majesty.”
“This is not over. I will stay and observe and help and see what develops.”
“Didn’t the closure of the gate end the risk from Namira?”
“No, I think that was a diversion. Her real plan is yet to be revealed. I will find it.”
“That is dire indeed. Let us at least show a brave face to these people. It will take days just to bury the deceased. Let us hope we have at least that long to grieve without interruption.”
“I will go and help with the injured. Thank you for your help priest.”
I made my way to the Temple and found Serana tending to the wounded.
I helped for several hours then wrote a letter to my beloved,
“My dearest Rigmor,
I have been to Oblivion again and destroyed a Sigil Stone and closed an Oblivion Gate. That was not what Lady Mara sent me for I am sure.
The canker that she spoke about is still growing.
I will stay here and observe. There is a plan and I will find it.
There is evil and I will root it out.
There are children in danger and I will save them.
I am tired and lonely and want nothing more than to hold you close, both of you.
Until then my beloved, stay safe and trust in The Nine.
I looked outside and saw Calder. I called him over.
“Can you please take this to the Embassy and ask that it be sent ASAP. Then come back here and rest.”
“If you insist but…”
“Time is funny when you are in Oblivion but your body knows when we return. You have once again been moving and fighting for almost 48 hours.”
“We have! Then I see the wisdom and I know why you have not asked one of the soldiers. They are mourning their losses Wulf. Less than half survived.”
“I know. They too died because the nobles and priests of this land failed their people. Their crimes are getting so that one solution appears more appealing than any other. The king only lives because I am too soft. It will not take much for his life to be forfeit.”
Calder rushed off and I entered the temple. Serana came over and said, “I want you to crawl over to one of the empty pallets and sleep. Write your journal first if need be but sleep.”
“Do you know why it was a diversion?”
“No, I was wondering but you are so sure. Why?”
Serana looked puzzled and then it made sense to her, “The Demon that was in the womb with Umbacano.”
“I do not know if that was Umbacano. Ambition called it ‘Whisper’. I was thinking Mortifayne was the husk he warned us about. But no, he wanted us to kill the husk and that was not an option with Mortifayne. I think there are two entities we are yet to meet. Husk and Whisper and with Ambition that make three beings from Oblivion still on the loose.”
“And all this may be because we have been subjected to too much gobblygook and now make up our own boogie-men.”
Serana walked off to tend to more injured and I found a pallet to sit and write these journal entries.
I eventually curled up on the pallet.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
I know it was to the sound of prayer, crying, soothing words and a deepening sense of despair.